Students lobby for intern protections
Gathering in James Madison College early Wednesday morning, a group of roughly two dozen well-dressed, first-time lobbyists met for Capitol Day, organized by Mi-EPIC’s director, political theory and constitutional democracy senior
Students from both MSU and other universities in Michigan, gathered by a furious media campaign from Marks, congregated on the third floor of Case Hall and were given a crash course in lobbying by four assistants of three different Michigan representatives. “Any students who are interested in government, political science or advocating” were welcome to attend, according to the event description.
They were attempting to lobby for , introduced by Rep. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, for the purpose of expanding legal protection against discrimination and sexual harassment to unpaid interns in the workplace.
Two Democratic representatives, who originally planned to attend the event but canceled due to last-minute commitments, each sent legislative assistants to the event. Mike Malone came in Knezek’s stead and Molly Korn and Ryan Sebolt came for Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing. The odd man out on the panel was Eric Singer, a legislative assistant for Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township.
The four speakers gave advice to the predominately new lobbyists, suggesting to avoid simply reading off their fact sheets or expect immediate gratification. One piece of advice to the lobbyists was to try and personalize the cause they are lobbying for.
“Having a student come in and lobby for something they care about; it’s a breath of fresh air,” Singer said.
Attendees were grouped in pairs and given a folder with a handful of representatives they were responsible for meeting with throughout the rest of the day.
Marks said he was driven to support HB 5691 by a trend in the United States where internships are increasingly prevalent for undergraduates and certain institutions even require an internship for graduation, such as James Madison College.
He said he was very happy with the turnout and, though the Capitol Day participants were mainly inexperienced, felt that they did well as a whole. He also said that because this issue is affecting more students, it is important that they care.
“Students should care about this because there is a very, very good chance that a student will be partaking in an internship and there is also a very good chance that that internship is unpaid,” Marks said. “So it is important that, as unpaid interns, they have basic workplace protection from sexual harassment and other discrimination.”